As has been said tirelessly over the past few years, one of the aspects that Buck Showalter brought to the Baltimore Orioles was that he taught them to play until the final out. As they’ve found out for the past two nights in Arizona, that might also be something that Buck left in Arizona because they’ve been battled tooth and nail by the Diamondbacks and ended up losing in walk off fashion. While they may not want to, Orioles fans have to tip their caps to an Arizona squad that like the O’s just simply won’t go away. And it you think about it for a moment, it really isn’t that surprising. They’re led by Kurt Gibson, who of course limped to home plate and limped around the bases after hitting a home run in the world series.
Miguel Gonzalez turned in about as quality of a start as one could. Gonzalez’s line: 7 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 3 K, 1 BB. That line indicates a pitcher that pitched to contact all game long, and did so very effectively. Gone are the days when guys like Sidney Ponson or Daniel Cabrera would nibble on the corners because they had no trust in their stuff. However I digress. Chris Davis gave the Orioles a 2-0 lead in the fourth with a two-run homer, his 44th home run of the season. I think it’s very possible that Orioles’ pitchers have been underestimating the way that the ball flies at Chase Field, as the Birds have been haunted by the long ball on consecutive nights; their offense has also benefited. J.J. Hardy would add a solo shot an inning later, and the Orioles had a 3-0 lead with Gonzalez crusing.
However Gonzalez seemed to tire as the game moved through the last of the seventh. Aaron Hill scored on a ground out after he legged out a deep triple, which was followed by a Parra home run to cut the Orioles’ lead to 3-2. However Gonzalez battled through the inning and avoided giving up any more runs, probably saving the Orioles a reliever in the process. Showalter went to Francisco Rodriguez in the 8th, and he sent Arizona down 1-2-3. However in the ninth with Jim Johnson on to close the game Paul Goldschmidt tied it with a solo home run. That seemed to give Arizona a shot in the arm, as Martin Prado followed with a single, and after a Parra double Arizona had runners at second and third with only one out. However Johnson struck out Wil Nieves and induced a Gregorius ground out to end the inning. Just to show that he wasn’t kidding, Goldschmidt decided to pull a similar feat in the last of the 11th by hitting a walk off home run off of T.J. McFarland to send the Orioles to defeat again, 4-3.
Many Orioles fans are awakening this morning incredibly angry at Jim Johnson, as this was his second consecutive blown save. That is something with which to be concerned for sure, and it’s obviously not the first time this year that ineffectiveness has been at Johnson’s doorstep. But it shouldn’t go unnoticed that Johnson pitched out of a situation that featured the winning run at third (also for the second consecutive game). It’s kind of a “bend but don’t break” type of mentality. Unfortunately when the lead is only one run and you give up a solo homer, you get charged with a blown save. Unfortunately with the loss, the Birds are now six games back of first place Boston. However Tampa was defeated by Seattle, so they remain two games back of them for second place as well as for the second wild card.
That makes this afternoon’s series finale all the more important for the O’s, as they’ll have tomorrow off while Tampa will have an opportunity to pick up a half game without the Orioles doing anything. (Obviously the O’s could also pick up a half game without doing anything if Tampa loses.) At this point it’s not about salvaging one of three in Arizona, it’s about keeping pace in the playoffs. However if the first two games of the series are any indication, the Birds better take Kurt Gibson’s squad seriously as opposed to worrying about Tampa and Boston. Chris Tillman will try to be the Orioles’ stopper as he goes for his 15th win of the season. However the Orioles, who have struggled to score runs in this series, will have to face a pitcher of equal strength in Patrick Corbin. Game time is set for 3:40 PM.
For the best deals on Baltimore Orioles tickets throughout the rest of the season and (hopefully) postseason, visit our partners at TiqIQ.